People come to Costa Rica for many reasons, yet it’s the astonishing biodiversity that serves as the country’s claim to fame. This tropical country, only the size of West Virginia, hosts around 4% of the world’s total biodiversity, including both plants and animals. The numbers alone are amazing, but they’re nothing compared to what you’ll experience once you land in Costa Rica. In this small country, there are 12 distinct microclimates ranging from Caribbean beaches to mountains, volcanic area, and lowlands. The country is covered in rainforests, tropical flowers, and rare wildlife. This has not only served as the ideal place for scientists to study hard-to-find ecosystems and species, but has turned into the adventure traveler’s delight.
As tourism and expat life in Costa Rica strengthens, steps have been taken by both the federal government as well as by private citizens to protect the local environment. Currently, 23% of Costa Rica’s national territory is protected land. As sustainable tourism has been promoted since the early 90’s, Costa Rica has turned into the world’s leading influence for ecotourism. Ecotourism ties the ideas of conservation and supporting local communities together with travel. It provides a way to extensively travel the natural sites of a country while minimizing negative impact, educating the traveler, and providing funds to support the ecosystem or surrounding community. It is a type of alternative tourism which not only avoids negative impact to the areas visited, but is less expensive and often offers a more immersed experience. Costa Rica is one of the only countries in Latin America which has a certification program for sustainable tourism, so companies sporting this catch-line are held to strict standards as far as their overall impact and environmental policies.
You came to Costa Rica to enjoy nature, whether that be the white sand beaches or the dense rainforests, and the ecotourism industry has devised a way for you to support these ecosystems you enjoy so much, from your activity choices, to the food you eat, to where you choose to stay. Get the most out of your Costa Rican adventure and leave the country in a better state than when you arrived by visiting eco-lodges during your trip, either for a night’s stay or just to engage in their meals and activities. There is a registered eco-lodge in virtually every part of the country, and these 6 top eco-lodges are the perfect examples of responsible tourism.
Finca Luna Nueva
Approaching the Arenal Volcano National Park, Finca Luna Nueva is tucked into the town of La Fortuna. Starting as a simple herb farm in the early 90’s, this eco-lodge is now 207 acres of organic farms and lodging built by fallen local trees. Your stay will include a beautiful, wide-windowed bungalow made from local materials, organic farm-to-table meals, education on organic Central American agricultural methods, and hiking trails around the nearby rainforests and volcano. After a long day of hiking in the Arenal National Park, you’ll relax in Finca Luna Nueva’s swimming pool or solar-heated hot tub and stretch out on the yoga platform.
This eco-lodge is perfect for the active family as well as for a romantic get-away. It’s location next to the rainforest and National Park is ideal, as this is an area you’ll want to visit regardless. For the more timid travelers, Finca Luna Nueva is an opportunity to explore new trails, ecosystems, foods, and tours on one premises with the bilingual staff.
Just 90 minutes west of San Jose, located in the Tilaran Mountains overlooking the Pacific Coast, Cerro Coyote is an eco-lodge bed and breakfast. The rooms all step out into a common courtyard, where you can enjoy your morning coffee or afternoon beer in a tropical garden, comparing notes with fellow travelers. The buildings are beautifully made with local materials and the campus is easy to navigate, despite the fact that it is all built on a 70-acre natural reserve for the tropical rainforest. As beautiful as the rooms may be, with the artistic tile patterns and hardwood furniture, you’ll spend nearly no time indoors. You will be drawn to the terraces overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the tropical gardens, and the rainforest trails.
It may be tempting to stay within the campus of this eco-lodge for your entire stay, which is why the staff will encourage you to explore. They offer horseback riding trips, ziplining, bike trails, hiking, and countless other physical activities. Once you’re tired from a long day, you’ll often find live music, a community movie, or a dip in the pool to be the perfect way to cool off and await your locally grown dinner.
Rara Avis Rainforest Lodge and Reserve
You won’t run into this eco-lodge by mistake, in fact, you’ll probably need to take a 3-hour muddy ride just to get there. The trek is an experience, and it’s well worth it. Rara Avis Rainforest Lodge is located near the Braulio Carrillo National Park and is one of the country’s first eco-destinations. Once you make it to the lodge, you will feel absolutely isolated from all civilization, and this is how the lodge was designed. The lodge features the natural occurring sites rather than its own buildings, which are rustic but well maintained. You’ll be encouraged to relax near the waterfalls and hike the many trails in the area. You’ll be offered education on what you’re seeing, home-style meals, and balconies overlooking the jungle. This will be a communal experience, as you’ll talk to the other visitors for entertainment. There is no electricity at this lodge, but with the beautiful views and outdoor activities, you’ll never miss it.
Danta Corcovado Eco-Lodge
This locally owned, family-run business has only recently been given an accredited sustainable tourism license, but has been partaking in environmentally friendly tourism and traditional ways of life since they first opened. Located on the Oso Peninsula, this eco-lodge overlooks the Corcovado National Park and the indigenous Guaymí Alta Laguna Reserve. All the buildings are constructed from local wood planted by the owner’s father, ensuring that the rainforest stays intact and no material goes to waste. This eco-lodge does not only offer beautiful rooms and great food, it is absolutely teeming with activities. Hikes, mangrove kayak trips, horse rides, and dolphin watching is just the beginning of a long list. This lodge also offers a great travel experience to people of all budgets as you can choose a grand master suite or a bunkbed dormitory.
Posada Rural Cerro Escondido
This eco-lodge requires another trek to find, but the experience you’ll get and the impact you’ll make will be well worth the effort. After an hour hike or a short horseback ride, you’ll get to this farmhouse and it’s four solar paneled cabins. This is not a tourism company, it is actually owned by a nonprofit organization dedicated toward assisting low-income communities around the reserve. This lodge is on the Nicoya Peninsula and is buried deep within a wildlife refuge, so while you visit you’ll be encouraged to try the all-levels hiking trails, birdwatching trips, and monkey-watching hikes. You’ll be offered a menu suitable for meat eaters and vegetarians alike. Posada Rural Cerro Escondido is small and fills up quickly, so make any tour or lodging reservations in advance.
Tortuga Lodge and Gardens
For sea life lovers, the Tortuga Lodge and Gardens is a must-see. This eco-lodge is on the Caribbean Coast, near the Tortuguero National Park. It is luxuriously build and furnished, but still makes you feel deep in the jungle, isolated from the city. The entire lodge is built along a river, so terraces, river swims, fishing trips, cultural activities, and canal tours are a given. They also sponsor the egg laying rituals of local turtle species, many of which are endangered. They protect reserved land for turtle eggs and if you visit in July to October, you may witness the hatching process. The gourmet, family style meals are served on a large multi-leveled deck overlooking the natural surroundings.